The New England Patriots preseason came to an end with Friday’s disappointing 23-7 loss to the Tennessee Titans. With the exhibition slate now in the rearview, Bill Belichick and his coaching staff haven’t wasted any time trimming off the fat with the regular season looming.
Boston Globe Sports‘ Christopher Price reported Monday afternoon that the Patriots are releasing veteran punter Corliss Waitman. He was signed back in March following Jake Bailey’s release.
The 28-year-old’s release also indicates that Bryce Baringer — who the Patriots drafted 192nd overall in April — has won the starting punter job.
The result of this training camp battle shouldn’t surprise you if you’ve been following it in recent weeks.
Baringer didn’t look out of place at all during the preseason. He showcased his power by racking up 566 yards on 11 punts (51.5 yards per attempt) with his longest being a 69-yarder. He also recorded a pair of touchbacks and even landed six punts within the 20-yard line.
While Waitman entered this battle with the experience advantage, you wouldn’t know it. He only averaged 43.0 yards on five punt attempts without recording a single touchback.
If Baringer can prove that his preseason play wasn’t a fluke once the regular season rolls around, the Patriots will be a better team for it.
New England was near the bottom of the NFL when it came to most punt statistics in 2020, averaging just 42.2 yards (No. 32) with only 22 attempts landing inside the 20-yard line (No. 21). A reliable punter is crucial to limiting opponents’ scoring opportunities.
Even though Baringer is now the Pats’ starting punter, it doesn’t mean that Waitman’s time in New England is over. Price added in his initial tweet that the ex-South Alabama product is a “strong candidate to return to the practice squad.”
Nevertheless, all eyes will be on Baringer to see how he handles being a rookie starter. It didn’t take long for him to become the best punter in Michigan State history, leaving time to tell if he can have a similar legacy with the Patriots.
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